How would you feel if you were the replacement for an All-Star and championship-winning center that signed then robbed your new team of a boatload of cash and never played? How would you feel if you were the reason your new team traded their young All-Star point guard?
Nerlens Noel is only 19 years old and this is the pressure he is already facing. The Philadelphia 76ers traded away Jrue Holiday for the sixth pick in the lottery this year to draft the talented, raw and injured Kentucky Wildcats stud. The hope was that he would be ready to go by the start of the season. During preseason, it was announced that he would be out for the whole season. The fans felt betrayed and the 76ers were accused of tanking to get the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. If the fans felt betrayed, imagine how the front office and players felt. This was like watching the Andrew Bynum fiasco all over again.
Noel was drafted to anchor the team’s defense and offer inside scoring. I figured he would start at power forward in the frontcourt with Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. He was to be the cornerstone of this young 76ers team for the future along with Michael Carter-Williams.
At Kentucky, Noel averaged 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks before going down with his injury. His choice to come out early and enter the draft, I believe, was a financial decision because he did not do enough in college to really turn any heads. But you know scouts; when someone blocks four shots a game, everyone thinks they have found the next Wilt Chamberlin.
The 76ers made the right decision in shutting this kid down for the season because he needs to be fully healed in order to be helpful for this franchise in the future. No matter what criticism the organization takes for their decision, people have to realize this is their investment, not the media or the fans. Once he is healthy I believe he has the potential to be a pretty good player. This young core could be dangerous if the 76ers can keep this core together and let them grow like the Oklahoma City Thunder did with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Noel is raw, but he has potential to do some great things in this league defensively. There are not many years where you get to draft a defensive specialist with his offensive upside. It may not seem they made the right decision but come next season, I guarantee Noel and the 76ers will have the last laugh.